The BJP’s tagline for this election has borrowed a few notes from a popular Rajasthani folk song by women of Kalbeliya, a tribe of snake charmers. The lyrics are about Vasundhara Raje’s government bringing “khushaali” or prosperity to Rajasthan.
But notwithstanding the marksheet of her government, the Chief Minister is facing a tough test on her home turf, Jhalawar. Former BJP legislator Manvedra Singh – the son of former Union minister Jaswant Singh — has travelled many miles from his family stronghold Barmer to take on the Chief Minister on the seat she has retained since 2003.
In September, the 54-year-old Manvedra Singh left the BJP, saying “Kamal ki phool, hamari bhool (the lotus is a symbol of our mistakes).”
It is a sentiment that’s being echoed across many seats in Rajput-dominated areas. The Rajputs comprise around 11 per cent of the electorate and can influence the outcome in 50 of the state’s 200 assembly seats.
As a royal from Dholpur, Vasundhara Raje was a rallying point for the Rajputs, who have been traditional voters of the BJP. But this time, the community has a long list of grievances – the denial of a ticket to Jaswant Singh in 2013, the death of gangster Anandpal, considered a local Robin Hood, in an encounter, and the row over the film ‘Padmaavat’.
Election in Rajasthan: Vasundhara Raje is a 5-time parliamentarian and legislator since 2003 from Jhalwar
Manvedra Singh’s campaign in Jhalawar has had the support of the Karni Sena, the organisation behind the protests against the Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh starrer.
Taking on Vasundhara Raje – a 5-time parliamentarian and legislator since 2003 from Jhalwar – is not easy. But Mr Singh maintains that his training as an officer with the para commando unit is coming in handy.
“I have been air-dropped into the battleground and now I will pick up my weapon and go into battle… I have no choice but to fight,” he told NDTV.
But if Manvendra Singh is Congress’s big catch, the BJP’s pockets aren’t empty either.
Not far from Jhalawar, the influential former royal family of Kota has also switched sides — this time from the Congress to the BJP. Congress lawmaker Ijyeraj Singh’s wife Kalpana Singh is contesting the election on a BJP ticket.
“We don’t need to be in politics to be with people,” said Kalpana Singh. “Our family has been associated with Kota for generations”.
“The Congress has given only 11 tickets to the Rajputs – that’s very few,” said Ijyeraj Singh. The community does feel a sense of disappointment and neglect while the BJP has always given it respect, he added.